The SOS Challenge: Shared Governance

The Safeguard Old State Vision for Shared Governance

Safeguard Old State envisions a return to the principles of shared governance at Penn State University. In practical terms, shared governance means that each of the three primary stakeholders in the university — students, faculty and administrators — have equal authority and decision-making power over their areas of influence.

The tripartite governance model that allowed for genuine shared governance since our founding in 1855 was abandoned by the Penn State Trustees in the early 1970s. Authority in the governance of the university, which formerly was vested in the students, faculty and administrators respectively, was placed solely in the hands of the university president.

This new model of governance disenfranchises the faculty and students in matters pertaining specifically to academics and student life, instead leaving all decision making power in the hands of one man. Recognizing that advice-giving can only be so helpful for often wide-reaching decisions, we humbly suggest a return to the classical shared governance model.

The Keys To A Return To Glory

  • University decision-makers — this could include anyone who garners the authority to act on behalf of the whole — should seek a return of the tripartite governance model that served our university so well for its first century and a half.
  • Student leaders should strive to create new models of authority among undergraduates that transcends the administration-student dynamic that has so deeply failed to engage the student body as a whole in meaningful avenues of personal development and leadership.
  • The University Faculty Senate (UFS) should seek to improve relationships between administrators and students in order to form a more effective academic decision-making body.
  • The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) should be treated as the financial decision maker for major matters concerning student life while administrators take on their traditional role as advisers to the student leadership.